9 famous people who cheated death

By 01.31.14
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Grim reaper image by Shutterstock

Death eventually comes for us all, and unless you’re Bill and Ted, you’re probably going back with him when he shows up. But occasionally, a soul does manage to avoid the Reaper’s touch. Sometimes, they go on to lead productive, worthwhile lives, and sometimes they go on to be Scott Stapp. Here are 9 famous people who somehow managed to cheat death.


Lunchbox LP, Flickr

Scott Stapp was just doing his thing, which apparently means getting all messed up on a variety of drugs, when he took a 40-foot dive headfirst off a balcony. I’m guessing the Reaper was, like most of us, not a Creed fan, saw his moment, and gave a subtle little push. Stapp somehow survived though, escaping with “just” a fractured skull, a broken hip and other maladies, such as still being Scott Stapp. The story gets really weird, though, as the only reason Stapp survived is because he was found lying in his own blood by the rapper T.I., who then called 911, a call which I’m guessing including the phrase “crazy white boy” at least once. As for Death, he reportedly confided to friends that it was the worst failure of his reaping career.

Most people know about the famous plane crash that claimed the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie “La Bamba” Valens and the Big Bopper, but what you might not know is that Waylon Jennings was supposed to be on that plane. But Jennings, who was touring as part of Holly’s new backup band at the time, decided at the last minute to give his seat to the Big Bopper. Incidentally, the singer Dion of Dion and the Belmonts also didn’t get on the plane, but only because he didn’t want to pay the $36 ticket fee, which is why you should always be fiscally responsible. Waylon Jennings went on, of course, to have a legendary career, including a stint as the Balladeer on The Dukes of Hazzard before Death finally caught up with him in 2002. I guess he figured it just wasn’t going to get any better than that.


Chevy Chase image by s_bukley/Shutterstock

In 1980, while filming the movie Minor Problems, Chevy Chase was electrocuted while wearing landing lights during a sequence in which he dreams he’s an airplane. Unfortunately, he managed to get wet while wearing the suit and, well, nature took over. Chase suffered a severe enough jolt that he briefly lost consciousness, and I guess Death let up at the last moment so Chevy could make Caddyshack, Fletch and the Vacation movies. I suppose Death just to forgot to finish the job after Chevy became the Chevy Chase we know and laugh at today, but then again, maybe Death figured that actually being Chevy Chase was a fate worse than death.


Orlando Bloom image by Joe Seer/Shutterstock

In 1998, Orlando Bloom fell three stories off of a drainpipe he was climbing outside of a friend’s house and broke his back. Seriously, climbing a drainpipe? Obviously, he was lucky he didn’t die, but there were real fears in the immediate aftermath that he would be permanently paralyzed, which would have put a real kink in Peter Jackson’s plans to cast him yet again as Legolas in his adaptation of The Catcher in the Rye.


Mark Wahlberg image by Debby Wong/Shutterstock

Mark Wahlberg recently acknowledged that he was supposed to be on one of the doomed 9/11 flights, but ended up chartering a private plane with his entourage instead. Naturally, Wahlberg was humbled by the experience, and learned wisdom and grace. Just kidding. He actually said “If I was on that plane with my kids, it wouldn’t have went down like it did. There would have been a lot of blood in that first-class cabin and then me saying, ‘OK, we’re going to land somewhere safely, don’t worry.” That’s right, Marky Mark would have beaten the shit out of the terrorists and then personally flown the plane to safety because his stunt double beat some dudes up in a movie one time, and hey, how hard can flying a jumbo jet be? This is a dude who once pretended to have an enormous penis, I’m sure he could figure it out.


Joaquin Phoenix image by Helga Esteb/Shutterstock

In 2006, Joaquin Phoenix was driving through an L.A. canyon when the Reaper cut his brakes and he slammed into another car. Injured, Phoenix would have been in real trouble if legendary German filmmaker Werner Herzog wouldn’t have wandered by and saved him. Wait… what? Yes, it would seem that Herzog had a home nearby, heard the crash and went out to help. Or as Phoenix tells it “And suddenly I said to myself, 'That's Werner Herzog!' There's something so calming and beautiful about Werner Herzog’s voice. I felt completely fine and safe. I climbed out. I got out of the car and I said, 'Thank you,' and he was gone.” Indeed.


Ozzy Osbourne image by s_bukley/Shutterstock

Amazingly, for all the insane shit Ozzy has put himself through over the years, it was an ATV accident on his property in 2003 that almost did him in. Yes, while tooling around on his property like any ordinary idiot, Ozzy flipped his bike and suffered a variety of serious injuries, including a broken neck and collarbone which threatened a major artery. He recovered after emergency surgery, but not before Death was disappointed because he was really, really hoping that this would be his chance to convince everyone that he had a real ironic sense of humor.

Financial giant J.P. Morgan was almost famous for a different reason – for being one of the passengers on the Titanic. But Morgan canceled his trip at the last moment and went on to establish the giant bank that bears his name. Of course, that bank then went on to eventually help cause another epic disaster – the 2008 financial meltdown – which resulted in suddenly broke dudes and lady dudes committing suicide. So I guess, in the end, the Reaper was paid back a thousand-fold for Morgan’s escape, and Hollywood had a new storyline for Final Destination 6.


Hugh Hefner image by s_bukley/Shutterstock

Hugh Hefner has obviously lived a ridiculously weird and charmed life, so naturally Death tried to kill him by stuffing a dildo down his throat. Yeah. Apparently, Hef was banging his bunnies when things got a little out of hand and a sex toy was lodged in his throat. Look, it happens. I get it. Hef says that his entire life flashed before his eyes, which I imagine was like watching the world’s most amazing porno, before he managed to free the toy from his throat. For the record, it was actually a Ben Wa Ball AKA an anal ball, which, uh, what the fuck was that doing in your mouth, Hef? You nasty old man. I’m guessing Death just didn’t want to have to explain to St. Peter what he was doing at his gate with Hugh Hefner. The Reaper is a man of class and dignity, after all.

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TAGSArbitrary RankingsChevy ChasefeaturedHugh HefnerJoaquin PhoenixJP MorganListsMark WahlbergOrlando BloomOzzy OsbourneScott Stapp

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